When Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote his now famous adage “the pen is mightier than the sword” for his play “Richelieu” in 1839, he had no idea that his words would literally become part of the American lexicon with the advent of the tactical pen approximately 175 years later.
So what is a tactical pen exactly? Tactical pens are instruments designed for the dual purpose of everyday writing tasks, but also have an alter ego as a last-resort defensive weapon.
They are generally machined from high-quality metal such as anodized aluminum and are combined with pressurized ink cartridges originally designed for the weightlessness of space.
A tactical pen has the potential to become a defensive weapon in several ways. It can be used as an impact weapon, a last resort piercing weapon, or as a sort of Kubotan. A Kubotan is a 5” cylindrical weapon known for being extremely effective in breaking the will of uncooperative subjects through the use of painful locks and pressure point strikes. As a result they became known as “attitude adjustment instruments.” Due to their popularity, tactical pens have been dubbed the Kubotans of the 21st century.
A tactical pen is generally less obvious and more useful than a Kubotan, since in addition to its tactical capabilities, has a more mundane function as well. Smith & Wesson has entered the tactical pen market with its own version, the SWPENBK. As author Scott W. Wagner describes in his article “Tactical Ink Pens: Low-Profile Defensive Tools” at USConcealedCarry.com, the pen can be a formidable weapon:
“If you found yourself the victim of a close range attack—one in which you were in danger of serious physical harm (including sexual assault) — and were justified in using your firearm, but did not have it available, then the Smith & Wesson Tactical pen might be a good potential option for defending your life.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
The Smith & Wesson SWPENBK tactical pen is 6.1 inches long and weighs a mere 1.6 ounces. It is crafted from T6061 aircraft grade aluminum with a tapered and fluted main shaft that could serve as a makeshift Kubotan when used properly.
The cap end screws on and off or with the M&P model, clicks on and off. The pen itself uses a Schmidt P900M Parker Style Black Ball Point Ink Cartridge, but you may want to consider upgrading to a pressurized “write anywhere” cartridge for about ten bucks. A nice feature is the heavy-duty pocket clip which is securely attached with two bolts.
Smith & Wesson’s SWPENBK is an excellent alternative weapon to carry in areas where guns are banned or defensive devices such as knives or Kubotans are not considered kosher. While the SWPENBK looks like a normal pen, do not attempt to take it through airport security. Many TSA personnel are aware of tactical pens and will confiscate them as weapons.
As with all Smith & Wesson products, the SWPENBK comes with a lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects. It can be found online for about $23.
Many concealed carry permit holders spend untold hours at the range, honing their handgun skills at drawing, aiming, movement, and of course, shooting. But no matter how adept they become with a firearm, those skills may not necessarily be useful if an attacker decides to opt for a different type of assault; a close encounter of the knife kind.
Knife attacks are on the rise in the U.S. for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is ease of access. Anyone, regardless of criminal background, can walk into their neighborhood Walmart, Bass Pro Shop, or swap meet and pick out their blade of choice, from pen knife to machete.
Unfortunately, there is a far more sinister reason behind the upswing in edged weapon attacks. The terrorist organization ISIS has a predilection for knife attacks, believing it is the preferred murder weapon of Allah, as documented in the Fox News article “Blade of Jihad: Extremists Embrace the Knife as Tool of Terror.”
Radicalized Muslims worldwide are using easily obtained knives to administer “Allah’s will” as witnessed by the September 2014 incident in Oklahoma where a recently fired employee entered the company building, stabbed two females, and then proceeded to behead one in the same style as the sensationalized ISIS internet videos. And in September 2016, an attacker stabbed 8 victims in a bloody Minnesota mall rampage and apparently asked at least one victim if they were Muslim.
So how does one avoid becoming a knife attack victim? Well, according to author Scott W. Wagner in his article “Knife Attack: How Do You Respond?” at USConcealedCarry.com, the key is distance:
“In order for a potential victim to avoid becoming an actual victim, he or she must maintain distance and use it to his or her advantage.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
In order for a knife attack to be successful, the attacker must be in close proximity to the victim. The attack-free zone is generally considered to be 21 feet. This distance was determined by law enforcement professionals to be the minimum distance required in order to have time to draw a weapon, aim, and fire. The distance would likely be 75 feet or more for someone carrying a firearm under a shirt, tucked in a belt, or stashed in a purse.
There are a few tips that will help increase the odds of surviving a random knife attack for those carrying concealed weapons.
First, maintain a high level of situational awareness when out in public and ask for ID from anyone purporting to be law enforcement or security. At the same time, try to keep your firearm as accessible as possible without making it obvious.
Use some range time to practice weak hand shooting; a random attack may slash your strong hand. Practice drawing from concealed carry positions. Since time is paramount, mount a laser sight to your gun. It will save precious seconds while trying to aim. Finally, watch the YouTube video Surviving Edged Weapons, a law enforcement training classic that describes how to survive a knife attack.
Following these guidelines, along with common sense and a little preparation will go a long way toward helping you survive a random attack, or better yet, avoid it altogether.
Although AR-15s are all the rage in gun circles right now, this hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t long ago that the tactical pump shotgun was the mainstay of law enforcement throughout the country and was still being used fairly often by the military. Yet even with the popularity of the AR-15s, the shotgun still has legions of fans and one in particular is so popular that Inland Manufacturing made the decision to manufacture a replica of it — the famed M37 Ithaca Trench Shotgun.
Inland teamed with Ithaca Gun Company to create the 12-Gauge recreation of a weapon the U.S. Navy Seals depended on in Vietnam. The point man of the SEAL team would carry the Ithaca M37 because of the formidable 12-gauge caliber rounds it could unleash at point blank range in the dense jungle.
Ithaca uses their 18-inch barreled Defense Gun with its standard bottom feeding and ejection port as the foundation for the M37 Trench Shotgun. Then by using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling, the shotgun undergoes three modifications.
The first change is the replacement of the Defense Gun’s 18-inch barrel with a 20-inch version of the original, complete with beaded sight. The next modification is a bayonet mount, which also acts as a heat shield. Although no bayonet is included, the addition of the mount/shield provides a definite boost to the Inland M37 Shotgun’s cool factor. The final modification is the replacement of the Defense Gun’s rubber recoil pad with a military-style grooved buttplate.
The M37 Trench Shotgun is very sharp-looking with rich oil-finished walnut stocks that could match up to many of today’s most expensive guns. The modifications not only provide an aggressive tactical look, but help increase the accuracy of the shotgun.
Author Scott W. Wagner explains how the modernized M37 Trench Shotgun improves overall efficiency for the shooter in his article “Inland Manufacturing 12-Gauge M37 Trench Shotgun: A Historic Reproduction Ready for Duty” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“The extra two inches of barrel and the weight of the heat shield and bayonet mount impart more weight up front, which helps keep the muzzle locked on target for rapid-fire shooting. “ (Read more at USConcealedCarry)
During range testing, the Inland M37 proved itself combat ready. Using a variety of ammo, the Trench Shotgun was consistently true to the point of aim and at a distance of 30 feet, four-inch groupings of eight pellets were the norm.
If this weapon has piqued your interest and you would like to purchase a working recreation of one of the workhorses of Vietnam ground forces, be prepared for sticker shock. The MSRP on the Inland M37 Trench Shotgun is $1259. However, you can rest easy knowing that you are the proud owner of not only a great shotgun from a historic standpoint, but an excellent modern home defense weapon.
“Concealed carry” is a term that is tossed about rather loosely when discussing firearms, self-defense, or other Second Amendment issues in public forums. Yet even with the rapid growth of concealed carry permit applications in the United States, little thought is given to the intended meaning of the word “concealed” once training is completed.
In his article “Depths of Concealment: How Deep is Too Deep?” at USConcealedCarry.com, author George Harris provides the definition used in reference to firearms:
“Concealment relevant to firearms or other weapons simply means carrying a weapon in a manner in which only the person carrying knows what, where, and even if he or she is carrying.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Basically, concealment is a series of compromises. It begins with your choice of weapon. Options such as weight, size, and print must be taken into consideration as does practicality. A deeply concealed weapon that is inaccessible when you need it defeats the purpose.
Accessibility should be the primary consideration regarding levels of concealment. Unfortunately, everyday attire can often cause retrieval issues when trying to draw the weapon. In an ideal scenario, the weapon should be accessible with either hand, but in most of the common concealment locations such as the inside-the-waistband holsters, ambidextrous drawing is next to impossible.
For women, the problem is very much the same, if not worse. Designers have managed to incorporate holsters into the fabric of bras, corsets, and other undergarments that, while definitely achieve deep concealment, are problematic for practical use once a woman is fully dressed. There are some women’s apparel options that have magnetic or Velcro fasteners that cut back on the time it takes to draw the weapon.
The button overlap is also more of an issue with female clothing. Menswear generally buttons with a left over right overlap, which favors right-handed access and draw. Female blouses and dresses are the opposite, which favors a left-handed draw. Given that only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed, this puts women at a disadvantage for these types of concealment options.
For waistband and apron holsters, the problem is more one of printing and comfort. Generally, clothing worn with these items should be 2 sizes larger. This would help reduce any chafing and the larger sizes allow the material to fall away from your body and your gun.
Normal men’s trousers make it almost impossible to carry a gun in the pocket without a noticeable print, although there are some brands that have looser pockets and there are some really tiny guns on the market now. But the best solution is to purchase pants with extra material in the pockets, specifically tailored for concealed carry. For women wearing skirts or dresses, thigh holsters are a reasonable option with fairly easy access.
Ankle holsters provide reasonable concealment and access options since most people aren’t looking there, but they aren’t particularly comfortable. Boot holsters where the gun is tucked inside the boot gives two layers of concealment and a little more comfort to the wearer.
In the end, concealment options vary widely and are dependent on many variables including clothing, climate, and potential threat. These factors aren’t always the same, so it’s important to have a flexible mindset and make the best decision each day to protect yourself and your loved ones.
One of the basic tenets of Concealed Carry Weapons training is that the first objective should be to avoid a confrontation whenever possible. Firearms training centers on the idea that drawing and firing your handgun should always be done as a last resort and when you’re in fear for your life or that of a loved one.
Although the odds are very small that you’ll ever become involved in a gunfight, being prepared for the unexpected is the best way to increase the odds of survival.
There are many classes taught throughout the country that train students in a variety of close combat techniques involving handguns, knives, batons, and martial arts.
But in reality, the first thing you should do if you find yourself staring down the barrel of a handgun is to start moving. A moving target has several advantages as author and U.S. Concealed Carry editor Kevin Michalowski points out in his article “Are You Learning to Move?” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“Movement takes you out of the line of attack. Movement forces the attacker to react to your movement. The more you move, the more you put yourself in control of the situation by forcing the attacker to react.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Not only will moving make you a harder target to hit, but it may surprise your attacker enough to give you a tactical advantage. The perpetrator most likely didn’t expect you to be armed or expect to have to bring down a moving target that’s shooting back. If you’re lucky, the attacker will panic and leave. But if not, at least your actions have forced your adversary to go on the defensive and take the time to reformulate his plan of action.
Try to find a range that incorporates movement drills into their instructional programs. If none are available, then it’s a simple matter to practice movement as a part of dry fire training at home. Even a few minutes a day can build muscle memory that will significantly increase your reaction time in a confrontation.
A keen sense of situational awareness will help you identify and avoid potentially dangerous situations. But if you do find yourself in a gunfight, remember to keep moving and keep fighting.
Gun owners in general and concealed carry permit holders in particular are generally vigilant people when it comes to personal and home defense planning, but those plans change radically when you decide that a family vacation in the back country is a good idea.
Any trip off the beaten path requires a different mindset than taking the family to the movies.
Although situational awareness is still paramount, the focal points are different. The likelihood of being confronted and robbed while in the great outdoors is slim.
An attack by any number of large animals that roam the more remote areas of national parks, forests, and Bureau of Land Management properties is more likely.
Unfortunately, firearm regulations in these areas can be tricky. A 2010 federal law makes it legal to carry firearms in national parks as long as it doesn’t infringe on local or state laws and although it may be legal to carry the weapon, likely isn’t legal to discharge it.
National park websites now have links to the applicable state firearm laws for their respective states. International borders such as the Boundary Waters area on the U.S.-Canada border create even more confusion as regulations can vary at different entry points.
The same is true to a lesser extent on U.S. federal lands, as author Tom Watson explains in his article “Backcountry Backup: Defending Your Life and Property” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“In the case where a portion of two or more states [lie] within a park boundary, it is up to each individual to check the status of laws in each of those particular states.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Although the passing of the 2010 law has generated considerable debate, there has been no indication of consequences in either direction. Between 2012 and 2013, minor criminal incidents in federal lands dropped from 113,000 to 105,000. Firearm use or lack thereof was not indicated in the reports.
There has been at least one incident of isolated campers being terrorized by gun-toting marauders. The incident occurred in 2007 before the federal law was passed and is still a topic of debate today whether the outcome would have been different if the campers had been armed.
Large carnivorous animals are a legitimate concern anytime you venture into their territory, but the chances of being killed by one are remote. For instance, in a 25-year period in Alaska, a total of 90 bears were killed either in self-defense or to protect property, amounting to less than 4 bears per year. However, 6 people were killed by bears from 1985 to 1996. Alaska regulations now require people to remain at least 50 yards from bears, although the bears are probably not familiar with the law.
For those who feel more comfortable carrying a firearm as a large animal deterrent, the recommended calibers are .40 handguns and .44 Magnum revolvers or shotguns. Bear spray is also extremely effective. Before you head to the outback with a weapon, make sure you are comfortable and skilled enough with it to potentially face off with a large man-eater looking for food or defending his territory.
One of the most significant and effective tools introduced to law enforcement around the turn of the century has been the Taser. The Taser is an electroshock weapon that fires two small dart-like electrodes into the attacker with the intended purpose of disabling him through “neuromuscular incapacitation.”
The original Taser used gunpowder to fire the darts and was declared to be a firearm by the ATF bureau. Current models use compressed nitrogen cartridges to fire electrically charged darts into the attacker from a distance of up to 15 feet.
Despite its success as a firearm alternative, the Taser does have several limitations with one being the steep learning curve, especially if you aren’t in law enforcement where training is ongoing. Author Dan Stahlnecker explains some of the issues with Tasers in his article “Taser Tactics: Four Simple Rules” at USConcealedCarry.com:
“The Taser isn’t an end -all bodyguard. It won’t do all the work for you. You still have a part to play in the action. To this end, I offer you four rules of effective Taser usage.” (Read more at USConcealedCarry.com)
Many people who are newly armed with a Taser suddenly feel a false sense of bravado. They know that they possess the power to incapacitate someone without killing them. Unfortunately, these same people often fail to realize that while their attacker may be down, they definitely aren’t out.
The Taser is a temporary stop-gap that gives you precious time to get away, not time to observe how long it takes the thug to recover and renew the attack. Some late model Tasers are now equipped with up to three charges, but even with the backup bolts, the first rule and main objective should still be to get far away from your attacker as quickly as possible.
If someone threatens you, using a Taser to protect yourself shouldn’t be a defensive move expected by the attacker. It should come as a complete surprise, which gives you a significant tactical advantage in the ensuing melee. Achieving the advantage of surprise also means that it shouldn’t be public knowledge that you carry a Taser.
When you purchase a firearm and obtain a concealed carry permit, it is assumed that you’ll spend time at the range honing your skills, yet new Taser owners often follow a completely different track. They either assume there’s nothing to learn, or worse, they assume operating the Taser will be self-explanatory when needed.
Both of these mindsets will get you into deep trouble and possibly killed. Read the instructions, watch the DVD, and measure out the 15 feet so you have some type of mental baseline. You may want to waste one cartridge by firing a test shot just to see the effect.
And like your firearm, if you don’t have it when you need it, it’s worthless. Obviously, some areas are more crime-ridden than others, but criminals are smart enough to figure out that so-called “safe havens” are often easy soft targets. In neighborhoods more prone to crime, keep the Taser in hand. For other settings, keep it easily accessible. Remember, the ultimate goal is to get back to Rule 1.
If you aren’t comfortable carrying a firearm or prefer to exhaust other options first, a Taser could be a solid option for you. For those who carry daily, it makes a potent backup. If you’re serious about packing a Taser, prices range from about $400 for the compact Taser Pulse to $1,400 for the double-barrel X2-Defender.